If you had any doubts that the cloud has gone mainstream, the latest news from Hewlett Packard (HP) and Box might change your mind. The companies announced that several models of HP business PCs will have access to a free Box account.

The Gift of Enterprise Security Compromise

Purchases of HP Compaq 6200 and 6005 Pro Series PCs will now include a free Box account with 10 GB of storage. Additionally, customers have the option of upgrading to a larger storage space for a  reduced annual rate. Customers who purchase HP Compaq 8200 Elite Series PCs get an even sweeter deal; Box and HP are offering an account with unlimited storage and synchronization at no cost for an entire year.

The Box and HP partnership will have a larger positive impact on Box than HP. It’s unlikely that anyone will make their computer selection based on a free Box account. However, once users begin using Box and have a significant amount of data stored, they may be unlikely to leave. HP and Box say the new offering will transform how individuals and enterprises manage content and collaborate. It’s convenient and cost effective, but not necessarily transformative. Millions of users are already using cloud services like Box, DropBox and Google Apps to share and synchronize files between users and devices. Many of these companies already offer free starter accounts of various sizes to entice new customers.

Consumers will likely appreciate the freebie, but those enforcing information security will not. Personal cloud storage is just one more bit of enterprise technology consumerization they will have to manage. What’s the big deal about everyone having access to cloud storage? It makes it easier for users to move very large amounts of data from corporate networks with well-defined security policies into what is essentially the wild. Sure, users can already do this with personal accounts or USB devices, but free accounts and publicity make it more likely to occur.

Unless organizations completely block access to personal cloud services, they will have to educate employees about the risk of storing sensitive information in personal cloud accounts. Even if an employee’s intent is not malicious, they could

  • accidentally share sensitive data with individuals outside the company
  • violate laws or regulations regarding the data storage (e.g. HIPAA)
  • have their account compromised by attackers

or be subject to any number of other equally problematic events.

Additional Details

We will likely see similar announcements coming from other computer makers and cloud providers in the near future. It’s just like when PCs used to come with pre-installed dial-up providers. One manufacturer introduced the practice and the others quickly followed.

More information about the Box offer for HP customers is available here. What are your thoughts about the Box and HP announcement? We would love to hear from you.